How coffee origins effect flavour by Truth Coffee owner David Donde

Words: Crush
Words by David Donde

Those of us who consider themselves to be coffee drinkers, probably have a favourite coffee. As a child I remember my parents buying a Mocha Java, or a French Roast. Did you ever stop and wonder exactly what that meant? Does French roast come from France? Well no. Coffee grows in the tropics. French roast generally means very dark roasted coffee Much of the good flavour acidity in a coffee has been roasted off, the coffee appears burnt and tastes very bitter. Mocha Java on the other hand started out meaning something – it meant a blend of very full, acidic coffees from Mocha, or Yemen, combined with the heavy flavours and mouth feel of Indonesian or Javanese coffees.

I hope that this has given you a clue as to what I am on about – the source or origin of coffee has a dramatic effect on it’s flavour. Like wine or any agricultural product, how and where it is grown, even its biological varietal, will have a big influence on the flavour.

Coffee is at an optimum when just picked.

Further, a coffee is at its best the moment it is picked. Under ripe or over ripe isn’t going to help here. The ripe cherries are picked and interestingly the fruit is stripped off and the seed kept. Two main methods are used. Wet, where the coffee cherries are dumped in water tanks and passed through rough disks abrading the flesh off, or natural, where the coffee is left to dry in beds in the sun. Washed cherries tend to taste cleaner when made through filter methods of consumption. The natural method tends to give the best flavours in espresso preparation.

The terroir coffee makes all the difference.

As to the terroir, the countries of origin make a huge difference to flavour, with some broad, and gross generalisations: Brazil’s tend to be light sweet and creamy; Guatemalan coffees, medium and chocolatey. Kenyan coffees have bright acidity, Indonesian coffees have the heaviest mouthfeel of all coffees. Then we get to Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee, where regions come to the fore; from the Harrarr region, we get deep coffees, with an intense blueberry flavour in some crops; Yirgacheffe, which is citrusy or pineapple flavoured, a real polarising taste, you love it or hate it.

If coffee is to be used for a purpose, such as making a latte or a flat white. A blend of coffees will give you optimal results. My favourite blend is based on an Indian Coffee from the Alana estate in the Mysore region of India, giving a chocolatey heavy body. This is layered with a more chocolatey and medium bodied Guatemala. Then with some Brazil and an Ethiopian Harrarr to round things off. Try it sometime – the soft, caramel and very nutty and chocolate noted Resurrection blend.

Blending is in itself another story, and combining two flavours more often than not, produces a third flavour rather than a combination of the two. Understanding this lot is a herculean effort and wrapping your head around it takes a lifetime and probably would result in a career change.

Welcome to our coffee world. Discover some of the best coffee shops in cape Town 

Read more from David Donde

The essential guide to spotting a bad coffee.

Finding the sweet spot as a roaster

Truth Coffee store

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